Republic of the Philippines v. Marcos Historic Case

At a Glance

Case Description 

On February 25, 1986, Ferdinand Marcos and his party fled the Philippines, thereby ending his twenty-year dictatorship. Seventy-two hours later, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) was retained by the new government to recover any of the Marcos regime’s illegally acquired assets hidden in the United States. Within three days, CCR obtained the first court order freezing some of those assets in New York. At the same time, CCR embarked on a nationwide legal campaign, with the assistance of numerous volunteer attorneys, to locate and return Marcos’s ill-gotten fortune to the citizens of the Philippines.

Marcos’s activities violated Philippine laws and also caused a massive drain on the Philippine economy. The total amount of money stolen may have equaled or exceeded the $30 billion Philippines national debt.

The major legal action against Marcos was begun in New York State court to restrain the sale of four properties in New York City and one in Nassau County. The court granted a temporary restraining order. Defendants removed the matter to federal court where CCR obtained a preliminary injunction against the sales.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals sustained the district court’s injunction. The United States Supreme Court denied a petition for a writ of certiorari.

The courts in effect held that if a dictator is charged with fleecing his country and a reasonable basis for the charge appears to exist, the proceeds of his theft that are located with a court’s jurisdiction can be frozen until such time as a Philippines court has a chance to adjudicate the charges.

With the basic legal issues resolved in favor of the plaintiffs, CCR helped to find other counsel to follow through on the details real estate litigation that remained.